Full disclosure: I haven’t read Three Cups of Tea and I’m not a fan of Eat, Pray, Love. That being said, I know how outrageously popular they are and how many people have been moved by Mortenson and Gilbert’s journeys, especially the spiritual aspects. Conor Grennan’s Little Princes certainly fills this niche for the 2011 publishing calendar.
Grennan recounts the story of what begins as a self-indulgent trip around the world after working and saving for a few years. He decides to justify the frivolity of the trip by planning to volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal for three months before jetting off to Thailand to travel and party with friends. But the children of the Little Princes orphanages and their stories get under his skin and open his eyes. Grennan learns that the children were taken from their homes after promises were made to their parents offering education and safety from the civil war raging around them. In reality, the children were taken to Kathmandu and either used to beg for money, which they then turned over to their captors or abandoned all together. Families left behind believed their children were dead after years of silence. Many of the children believed they would never see their families again.
Grennan himself helps rescue seven orphans only to find out the child trafficker who brought them to Kathmandu originally got wind of his plan and took them from their safe house. Their loss haunts him and brings him back to Nepal and Little Princes after his world travels. Grennan’s life is forever changed and he commits to not only living in Nepal, but to finding the seven lost orphans and creating a truly safe place for them and others like them and, ultimately, reuniting them with their families.
I was inspired by Grennan’s clear-eyed recounting of his transformation from a guy with some money in the bank who wanted to experience adventures around the world into a man committed to helping the children of Nepal while recognizing the intricacies and limitations of the country’s culture, traditions, and abject poverty. His personal journey is compelling and his physical journey through far-flung Nepalese villages to find the families of many of “his” orphans was a tense, but inspiring read. Little Princes is a satisfying and (here's that word again!) inspiring book that will make you want to get out your wallet and make a donation to New Generation Nepal, Grennan's organization.